Immunotherapy is alive and we are a central part of it

News

Congratulations to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for winning 2018's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Here, professor Stephan Mielke, Scientific Director, Theme Cancer, Karolinska University Hospital gives his reflections on this years Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine:

"Congratulation to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for winning 2018's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine! Who would have thought a decade ago that the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine would be awarded to the field of cellular tumor immunotherapy, an area that was thought to be "dead" as vaccines simply would not work that easily and genetics were hoped to be the solution of winning the battle against cancer.

Professor Stephan Mielke, Scientific Director, Theme Cancer

Nonetheless should we remember that as early as in 1990 E Donnall Thomas has already been awarded with the Nobel Prize for setting the ground of today's most established cellular immunotherapy in the treatment of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma: Allogenic Stem Cell Transplantation.

In 2018, almost 30 years later, it was pretty much the decryption of immune mechanisms and identification of molecules involved in the regulation of the autologous immune system that led to another breakthrough. Blocking these key molecules of tolerance with so-called check-point inhibitors led to the reincarnation of autologous immunity, finally getting a grip on malignant melanoma and several other solid tumors which no good alternative therapies had been in place.

And more and more cellular cancer immunotherapies are on their way, NK cells, CAR-Tcells, TILs, etc. . It reminds me of the fall of Berlin's wall: "Who was asleep that night must have been dead". Immunotherapy is alive. It is all happing now and we at Karolinska are a central part of it. It is not a surprise that a month ago, the European Medical Agency (EMA) approved the first CAR-T cell therapies in Europe and more of such therapies are likely to come. I am happy that Karolinska´s managment started a strategic investment in cell therapy by building up a new ward for allogenic stem cell transplantation that now serves also the complex immunotherapies of the future. The battle on cancer is on!"

Professor Stephan Mielke, Scientific Director, Theme Cancer, Karolinska  University Hospital